Reclamation: Dry conditions expected on Rio Grande this spring

The Bureau of Reclamation anticipates a dry spring on the Rio Grande due to low snowpack, but is implementing strategies to manage water resources and minimize the impact of the ongoing drought.
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  • Low snowpack leads to projections of below-average water inflow into reservoirs.
  • Irrigation releases start earlier this year due to increased storage.
  • Potential for drying in sections of the Rio Grande River this summer.
  • Ongoing efforts to optimize water use and protect river ecosystems.

March 7, 2024 — The Bureau of Reclamation announced yesterday that water managers on the Rio Grande are anticipating limited water availability this springOpens in a new tab. and are working to mitigate the effects of a continued megadrought. The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) forecast indicates that inflow into El Vado Reservoir will be notably lower than average. Although reservoir levels are currently higher than in 2023, the situation highlights the ongoing challenges facing water management in the region.

To address these challenges, irrigation releases from Elephant Butte and Caballo Dams have started earlier this year. The Bureau of Reclamation is working closely with stakeholders, including irrigation districts, Pueblos, and municipalities, to make the best use of limited water resources. Coordination with agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ensures efforts to minimize the impact on the river ecosystem.

Despite these actions, some sections of the Rio Grande could experience drying this summer. The lack of storage at El Vado Dam due to ongoing construction contributes to this risk. Reclamation urges the public to exercise caution around the river channel as water levels fluctuate.

The Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing their annual operating plans for the Rio Grande and Pecos River, which will be presented in April. These plans will provide further detail on river conditions, irrigation operations, and reservoir management.

Additional Information & Public Meetings.

  • The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District began limited diversions from the Rio Grande on February 26th.
  • Snowpack levels are variable, with some basins above and others below average.
  • Conditions for the Pecos River are slightly more favorable, but water users are still advised to conserve.

The Annual Operating Plan public meetings will be held virtually and in person Thursday, April 18. The presentation will be available on Reclamation’s website at Plans | Upper Colorado Basin | Bureau of Reclamation ( in a new tab. For more information, please contact Albuquerque Area Office Public Affairs, Pacifica Casares-Chehy at


“Caballo Dam will release approximately 500 cfs at 8 a.m. and then go to 2,200 cfs no later than 11 a.m. on Friday morning, March 8, 2024,” via US Bureau of Reclamation News ReleaseOpens in a new tab..


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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